ARTISTS’ BAD BOY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Caravaggio, A Life Sacred and Profane

CARAVAGGIO

 

By Andrew Graham-Dixon

Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini

ANDREW GRAHAM-DIXON (ART CRITIC-JUDGE FOR THE TURNER PRIZE, BP NATIONAL PORTRAIT PRIZE,& ANNUAL BRITISH ANIMATION AWARDS)
ANDREW GRAHAM-DIXON (ART CRITIC-JUDGE FOR THE TURNER PRIZE, BP NATIONAL PORTRAIT PRIZE,& ANNUAL BRITISH ANIMATION AWARDS)

Caravaggio is artists’ bad boy of early sixteenth century Italy.  Born in 1571, Caravaggio arrives in the midst of religious turmoil between Catholic nations and the Ottoman Empire. Caravaggio comes to life in Andrew Graham-Dixon’s biography.  Graham-Dixon explores the light and dark of Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio’s short life.

Graham-Dixon suggests Caravaggio’s life is self-formed by circumstance of history, the political connection of Caravaggio’s family, and a rebellious nature of a boy who loses his father at the age of six. A self-formed life is a description of Caravaggio’s growth to manhood.  It suggests Caravaggio’s artistic ability comes from inner drive more than formal education.  Though Caravaggio is apprenticed to painters in his youth, contribution to his artistic ability is obscured by differences in what Caravaggio paints and what his teacher’s taught.

CARAVAGGIO-BOY PEELING FRUIT (THE EARLIST KNOWN WORK 1592-1593)
CARAVAGGIO-BOY PEELING FRUIT (THE EARLIEST KNOWN WORK 1592-1593)

Use of light and shade (chiaroscuro) reflects an early break with what teachers taught and what Caravaggio could do.  In his early work, the beginnings of Caravaggio’s genius are shown. Even though the subject “Boy Peeling Fruit” shows immature dimensional perspective, Caravaggio’s beginning use of light and dark dramatically highlights his subject.  As time passes, Caravaggio skillfully improves chiaroscuro to further dramatize his work.

 

Graham-Dixon recounts Martin Scorsese’s 1960s comments about Caravaggio’s cinematic sense.  Caravaggio’s paintings tell stories of the bible known by the public but known more symbolically than literally.  Caravaggio’s work dramatizes biblical stories.  The dramatic finger probe of Jesus by Thomas cinematically illustrates Christ has risen from the dead.  From the frown on doubting Thomas’s face to Thomas’s dirty fingers, the biblical story becomes graphically real.CARAVAGGIO-DOUBTING THOMAS

CARAVAGGIO-DOUBTING THOMAS (DETAIL OF THE EXTENDED FINGER, ITS DIRT& REMINISCENT MICHELANGELO SISTINE CHAPPEL HAND)
CARAVAGGIO-DOUBTING THOMAS (DETAIL OF THE EXTENDED FINGER, ITS DIRT& REMINISCENT MICHELANGELO SISTINE CHAPEL HAND) From the frown on doubting Thomas’s face to Thomas’s dirty fingers, the biblical story becomes graphically real.

At times, Caravaggio went too far and displeased his benefactor with biblical interpretations that offended social propriety.  In St. Matthew and the Angel, the intimacy of the angel and St. Mathew offended his client.  A second version had to be painted before Caravaggio would be paid.

www.mikeyangels.co.uk
In St. Matthew and the Angel, the intimacy of the angel and St. Mathew offended his client.

 

CARAVAGGIO-ST MATTHEW AND THE ANGEL-(THE REVISION)
CARAVAGGIO-ST MATTHEW AND THE ANGEL-(THE REVISION)

Caravaggio paints from models of working people of his time to make stories of the bible truer to Jesus’s time.  Jesus walks among the poor, the bereft, and sinners of society.  Caravaggio’s characters are workers, prostitutes (courtesans), and gamblers like “The Cardsharps…” or his sexualized “Cupid as Victor”.  He shows the dirty feet of a visitor to “Madonna of Loreto”.

CARAVAGGIO-THE CARDSHARPS AND THE FORTUNE TELLER
CARAVAGGIO-THE CARDSHARPS AND THE FORTUNE TELLER

 

CARAVAGGIO-CUPID AS VICTOR (A STORY OF V'S-SENSUALITY OF HUMAN BEINGS)
Caravaggio’s characters are workers, prostitutes (courtesans), and gamblers like “The Cardsharps…” or his sexualized “Cupid as Victor”.

MADONNA OF LORRETO (Below shows the dirty feet of a visitor.)

 

Graham-Dixon’s infers Caravaggio is a profligate sinner himself.  Caravaggio is described as a person who wears black to obscure his visage at night when he is raising hell with his friends and enemies.  Caravaggio violates the law by carrying a sword without a license; by brawling in local brothels and practicing alleged bi-sexual acts.  Graham-Dixon suggests Caravaggio may have been a pimp to subsidize his income. Graham-Dixon also suggests pimping may have provided models for his art.  Finally, Caravaggio kills a man and is sentenced to death.

Caravaggio is recorded by witnesses and in trials to have a volatile temper.  Though the biographer mentions artist’s behavior was sometimes affected by lead and other contaminants of their paint, Graham-Dixon does not conclude Caravaggio’s behavior is caused by a painter’s occupational hazard.  In 2010, lead poisoning is found in what is believed to have been Caravaggio’s remains.  But Graham-Dixon reports no one really knows exactly where Caravaggio is buried.  Were those remains Caravaggio’s?

KNIGHTS OF MALTA
KNIGHTS OF MALTA (Caravaggio made many enemies but no one knows for sure what caused his death.  Graham-Dixon believes a vendetta, by a member of the Knights of Malta, is the proximate cause of Caravaggio’s death.)

Graham-Dixon concludes the biography with an explanation of Caravaggio’s mysterious death.  Caravaggio made many enemies, but no one knows for sure what caused his death.  Graham-Dixon believes a vendetta, by a member of the Knights of Malta, is the proximate cause of Caravaggio’s death. 

Caravaggio, when he tries to become a Knight of Malta to escape the death sentence for an earlier murder, insults one of the Knights.  The insult goes unsatisfied and is compounded by Caravaggio’s abandonment of the Knights of Malta when he thinks he will get a pardon for his crimes from Rome.  Graham-Dixon suggests the insulted Knight catches up with Caravaggio and severely cuts his face.  Several months later, Caravaggio is still recovering from the wounds when notice comes to him–upon return to Rome, he will receive his pardon.

Caravaggio packs his bags and his last three paintings and heads for Rome.  The trip is by ship.  The voyage includes a stop before arriving in Rome.  At the stop, for an unknown reason, Caravaggio is retained by a local sheriff.  The boat sails without him.  When Caravaggio is released, he buys a horse to meet the departed ship at its next port before Rome.  Caravaggio is still recovering from his wounds.  When he arrives at a port, he is sick unto death with fever and exhaustion.  Some days later, he dies at the age of 38.

Caravaggio marked a pivot point in the meaning of art.  Painting became more than symbolic representation, i.e., it became a cinematic representation of the real world.  The imperfection of humankind, both physically and spiritually became a part of art’s story about life.  Caravaggio’s art reflects on the violence of life, the imperfection of humankind, the doubts of human belief in God, and the nature of human beings.

CARAVAGGIO (JUDITH BEHEADING HOLFERNES)
CARAVAGGIO (JUDITH BEHEADING HOLFERNES-Caravaggio’s art reflects on the violence of life, the imperfection of humankind, the doubts of human belief in God, and the nature of human beings.)
Newly discovered but unsigned painting by Caravaggio found in a French attic.

Caravaggio’s use of light and dark is the principle challenge to a recently found work of art attributed to, but not signed by Caravaggio.  The objection is related to the use of a brown backdrop that enhances the light and shade characteristic of Caravaggio’s paintings.  The estimate value for the newly discovered version of JUDITH BEHEADING HOLFERNES is $100m.

WIRED TO CREATE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative MindWired to Create

Written by: Scott Barry Kaufman, Carolyn Gregorie

Narration by:  Nick Podehl

CAROLYN GREGORIE (SCIENCE WRITER FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST)
CAROLYN GREGORIE (SCIENCE WRITER FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST)

SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN (AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, AUTHOR, SCIENCE WRITER)
SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN (AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, AUTHOR, SCIENCE WRITER)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book “Wired to Create” is an internet sensation.  It began as an article in the Huffington Post; written by Carolyn Gregorie.  Based on the article, she co-writes a book with psychologist Scott Kaufman.  The book is promoted as a loss leader (no charge) to attract customers to Google e-books and other internet savvy vendors.  The book’s popularity is in the argument that intelligence is only one characteristic of a creative mind.  With IQ as only one characteristic of creativity, the field of human subjects who fit the definition of creative is broadened.

PICASSO'S BULL'S HEAD
PICASSO’S BULL’S HEAD

Scientists, inventors, artists, sales people, mechanics, technicians, sports stars, and other unnamed categories of people are “Wired to Create”.  This is no revelation.  It is not unusual to find friends or acquaintances that are able to think in three dimensions, rotate objects in their mind, come up with solutions to complex problems, or create art out of ordinary things.  Some of these creative people are great explainers; others are introverted and non-communicative.  Some recall events in perfect detail; others only remember broad outlines.  Some create art out of nothing; others say nothing about art but build cathedrals.

ST. SERNIN, TOLOUSE, FRANCE
ST. SERNIN, CATHEDRAL IN TOLOUSE, FRANCE

Kaufman and Gregorie identify some characteristics of creative minds.  There is the ability to hold opposing concepts in mind while rendering something never thought of before; i.e. like a work of art that shows planes of a human face from every angle in two dimensions.  There is a disruptive quality in a person with a creative mind.  That disruption is often seen in school students who cannot sit still, are always talking, and are constantly interrupting class activities.  It is the creative teacher who handles the disruption to gain participation of all students, including the disrupter.

STEVE WOZNIAK
STEVE WOZNIAK

STEVE JOBS (1955-2011)
STEVE JOBS (1955-2011)

Kaufman and Gregorie mention famous creative geniuses like Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, and Jobs who exhibit creativity in varied but similar ways.  Einstein may rise above the others because of a creative universality but each exhibit a passion and intensity for what they think and do.  Edison and Jobs are super salesmen; Wozniak is a tinkerer; Einstein is a conceptualizer. To varying degrees each practices the others’ skills.

“Wired to Create” notes that creativity is not restricted to either introverts or extroverts.  Creativity encompasses all sociological categories.  Creativity comes from persistence and resilience; driven by passion.

MIND DECONSTRUCTION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF EVENTS
(Competing theories of learning suggest human brain interaction with environment is too complex to measure; i.e. the way the brain reacts when stimulated by the environment is, at best, an evolving mystery.)

THOMAS EDISION (1847-1931, AMERICAN INVENTOR, BUSINESSMAN CONSIDERED BY SOME TO BE AMERICA'S GREATEST INVENTOR)
THOMAS EDISION (1847-1931, AMERICAN INVENTOR)

The authors note the many failures of creative people; e.g. people like Edison and J. K. Rowling.  The authors note that only a handful of Edison’s thousands of patented inventions were successful.

J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)
J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)

Rowling had many publishers turn Harry Potter down until one publisher accepted her work. The tortured personality theory of creativity is addressed by the authors but it is only one of many factors that make people think what they think and do what they do.  As noted with Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, Jobs and Rowling not all creative people are aberrantly affected by hyper activity, repeated failure, or intense focus.   Kaufman and Gregorie imply some creative people may have tortured personalities but correlation is not causation.

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903, PAINTER, SCULPTUR)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903, PAINTER, SCULPTOR)

Gauguin is financially unsuccessful as an artist in his lifetime because of the public’s rejection of his work.  Gauguin’s paintings are sold for millions today.  Kaufman and Gregorie imply creativity is no guarantee of money, success, or happiness. Gauguin’s lack of success may have led to use of drugs but it seems as likely that penury and failed acceptance, rather than misunderstood creativity, is the proximate cause of death.  Taking drugs is a malady of the uncreative as well as the creative.

Vincent van Gogh, a contemporary of Gauguin, commits himself to an asylum in which he paints one of his most revered works of art, “The Starry Night”.  However, like Gauguin, van Gogh is never financially successful.  Gauguin and van Gogh succumb to the stresses of life; not because they are creative but because they are poor and unable to cope with their perceived failure.

VINCENT VAN GOGH (ONE OF MANY RENOWNED SELF PORTRAITS BECAUSE VAN GOGH COULD NOT AFFORD MODELS.)
VINCENT VAN GOGH (ONE OF MANY RENOWNED SELF PORTRAITS BECAUSE VAN GOGH COULD NOT AFFORD MODELS.)

Kaufman and Gregorie broaden the definition of creativity.  However, there seems little revelation in their suggestion that creativity comes from intense interest, average or higher IQs, hard work, and persistence in the face of rejection.  Talk of left brain, right brain activity, and frontal lobe brain waves are unconvincing physiological origins of creativity.  Play theory seems passé.  Competing theories of learning suggest human brain interaction with environment is too complex to measure; i.e. the way the brain reacts when stimulated by the environment is, at best, an evolving mystery.  Mysteries of the creative mind remain undiscovered.